Purpose of the flight and payload description

To complement the spectroscopic observations of the sun with high spectral resolution done at the Jungfraujoch International Scientific Station in the Swiss Alps, the Institute of Astrophysics of the University of Liege, from Belgium developed a balloon-borne instrument to observe in all spectral regions not accessible from the ground.

The instrument was composed by a 40-cm aperture Ritchey-Chretien telescope, associated with an Ebert-Fastie-type grating spectrometer of 2.5 meters of focal length. A gimbaled plane mirror directed the solar radiation within the telescope. A solar image of 56 mm diameter was produced in the focal plane of the telescope and its central part was then transferred and focussed onto the entrance slit of the spectrometer by two mirrors. The main mirror of the instrument was spherically shaped to a radius of curvature of 5 meters. Two different gratings were available for covering the 1.5 to 15 microns region. The working order selection was obtained with a set of interference filters mounted on a filter-wheel. All mirrors and mounts were made from light aluminium alloy, kanigen-coated and the optical surfaces were aluminized.

During development was decided to adopt a double-pass configuration, instead os a single one. This allowed to reduce the level of diffused light at the exit slit, to remove spurious grating defects and also to provide an instrumental profile free of secondary "aperture-diffraction maxima". For the 1.5 to 3.0 microns region, the incoming radiation was focussed onto a lead sulfide cell, cooled down to -70°C by thermoelectrical effect; a second PbS detector located near and parallel to the intermediate slit allowed to record simultaneously the spectrum in single pass.

During the scanning, the signals detected by the cells were synchroneously amplified and stored in an on-board magnetic tape recorder as well transmitted to the ground by telemetry for real-time monitoring and optimisation of the equipment by telecommand. A tungsten lamp, which could be placed temporarily in the optical path, was used for in-flight realignment of the spectrometer; it also allowed to determine spectroscopically, the amount of water vapor inside the instrument.

The instrument was mounted inside a 4.75 meter high balloon gondola which contained the optics and all components. The gondola, as well as the telescope and spectrometer frames were made out of aluminium honeycomb. The pointing process was acomplished in two steps. A first coarse pointing using silicon solar sensors which controled an inertial wheel on top of the gondola to direct the aperture of the instrument towards the sun, then the fine pointing was completed moving the main mirror which was mounted in a two-axis gimbaled system, and controlled by torque motors servo-controlled by two pairs of fine solar sensors. The total weight of the balloon equipment was approximately 1100 Kgs.

The program was active from 1969 until 1993, performing 27 balloon flights.

Details of the balloon flight

Balloon launched on: 4/21/1971 at 3:46 cdt
Launch site: Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility, Palestine, Texas, US  
Balloon launched by: National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)
Balloon manufacturer/size/composition: Zero Pressure Balloon Winzen - 2.902.000 cuft (1.5 Mil - Stratofilm)
Balloon serial number: Serial Nº 75
Flight identification number: 606P
End of flight (L for landing time, W for last contact, otherwise termination time): 4/20/1971
Balloon flight duration (F: time at float only, otherwise total flight time in d:days / h:hours or m:minutes - ): F 10 h 30 m
Landing site: In Magnolia, Arkansas, US
Payload weight: 3041 lbs

The flight was the third one of the program (ULG-3). The mission goal was to continue the recording of the solar spectrum in near infrared spectral regions not accessible from the ground, specially the detection of new solar lines in the vicinity of the 1,65 microns opacity reversal of the solar atmosphere and the completion of actually existing solar atlases compiled from ground observations. Also was of interest the analysis of absorption lines present in the solar observations, due to atmospheric constituents distributed above the float altitude. Solar observations were carried out for more than 8 hours during the flight. They were intermittently interrupted for making measurements with an on-board calibration source, allowing to realign the spectrometer and to determine the amount of residual water vapor inside of the equipment, while at altitude. This is very important to assess more precisely the concentration and distribution of H20 about 27 km

External references

If you consider this website interesting or useful, you can help me to keep it up and running with a small donation to cover the operational costs. Just the equivalent of the price of a cup of coffee helps a lot.